Last Saturday, 15th August, veterans of the Second World War and their families gathered at the Cenotaph in George Square, Glasgow, to mark VJ Day - the end of the war in the Far East in 1945 - which is also known as the Far East POW Day. Among them were David Paton and Benny Gough from Hamilton and John Marshall from Bellshill.
David, (89) was along with Benny and John in the Lanarkshire Yeomanry when they became prisoners of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. For the next three and a half years, David, along with others from the Lanarkshire Yeomanry was to toil on the infamous Death Railway which was driven through the impenetrable jungle between Thailand and Burma. He considers himself fortunate to have survived the inhumanity and hardship which he and others endured.
Benny (93) and John (89), on the other hand, were transported aboard the Japanese "Hell ship", the "England Maru" to slave in the evil and godforsaken Kinkaseki copper mine in Formosa (now Taiwan).
Conditions in the mine were almost indescribable as naked POWs were forced to load tons of copper ore into bogeys under primitive and dangerous working conditions. Failure to meet their quota of ore resulted in savage beatings from the long handled hammers of the sadistic "hanchos" or overseers. Many men from the Lanarkshire Yeomanry were to suffer and die at Kinkaseki from malnutrition, disease and sheer brutality.
But Benny and John through stubbornness and determination did survive and, along with David, who had equally managed to stay alive on the Death Railway, eventually found themselves back in their native Lanarkshire where they simply got on with their lives. They consider themselves among the fortunate but hardly a day passes when they do not think of the friends and comrades who did not return.
The Remembrance service at the Cenotaph was organised by Avril Anderson of the Far East POW Community. Taking part were the Rev. Stephen Blakey, the Padre to the 6th Scots TA; Peter Ferguson, from the Hamilton Branch of the Burma Star Association; Sandy Gibson of the FEPOW Community and Campbell Thomson of the Lanarkshire Yeomanry Memorial Group.
The wreath was laid by David, Benny and John on behalf of their comrades and all three delivered the Kohima Epitaph.
John played Brahm's Lullaby on his harmonica, as it was a tune he was frequently asked to play at night in the POW camp. It was an extremely moving occasion. You could have heard a pin drop and he was rightly rewarded with applause afterwards.
Speaking of the event, Avril Anderson said, "Despite the passage of time, it is important that we continue to remember the sacrifice made by so many during the war in the Far East. The courage and fortitiude of these ordinary men and women are an example to the youth of today."
Avril's father Sgn William Moffat from Partick, Glasgow was captured at the fall of Singapore on 12 February 1942, imprisoned in Changi for 17 mths the sent to Blakan Mati til the end of the war. William, like many others died an early death due to punishments in the camps.
It remains something of a tragedy that not a lot is known in their native county of what happened to many young Lanarkshire men serving in the Lanarkshire Yeomanry, the Argylls, the Gordons and other main line Regiments such as the Royal Artillery during the war in the Far East.
Avril and others are keen to remedy this and anyone who would like to learn more about the FEPOW Community or the Lanarkshire Yeomanry is invited to contact:-
Avril at firstname.lastname@example.org
Agnes Dougan at email@example.com
Sandy Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org